198 years and counting.
Following a very modest and secretive beginning in the southern hills of France, the Congregation of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers) is now closing in on 200 years!
It was on November 21, 1822, following 20 years quietly operating three small start-up schools devoted to Christian education, that ten teacher-priests came together as a congregation. St. Basil was chosen as the patron for the order and Fr. Joseph Lapierre, CSB as their very first superior general.
“Our congregation had 10 distinct founders and that’s unheard of in religious life,” says Fr. Kevin Storey, CSB, the current Superior General of the Basilan Fathers since 2018. “Those 10 founders have contributed to our diversity and our embracing and welcoming spirit of others.”
In 1850, at the request of the Archbishop of Toronto, Armand de Charbonnel, the congregation expanded beyond France to Toronto to establish St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) in September 1852. Bishop de Charbonnel had previously studied under the Basilian Fathers in Annonay, France. Similarly, the growth of the Basilan Fathers in North America was often in response to requests by Bishops looking for Christian educators.
This year’s Founding Day celebrations will be somewhat low-key due to the ongoing global pandemic.
“Unfortunately, we will not be hosting community gatherings with Mass and dinner, as we ordinarily would have for this celebration in various cities throughout Canada, the U.S., Colombia, Mexico, and France,” says Storey. “The big celebration for our 200th anniversary will begin in November 2021 through November 2022, so this year is a little bit of the calm before the storm.”
SMCS will recognize the anniversary with a video announcement to end the week as well as promote the day on the school’s website and social media channels. A dedicated Mass for the local Basilian community will also be celebrated.
The school currently has two full-time Basilian priests on staff, Fr. Andrew Leung, CSB, President, and Fr. Bill May, CSB who is a religion teacher and assists with Chaplaincy.
“When I look at Basilians like Fr. Andrew Leung and Fr. Bill May, I see incredible commitment, talent, and charisma,” adds Storey. “Basilians of today are making an impact like legendary Basilians of the past, the difference is that there just aren’t as many of us.”
At SMCS, in addition to their administrative and teaching roles, the Basilian Fathers are available to staff and students for pastoral care, personal and spiritual counselling, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“The impact that Basilians have on today’s students are still numerous,” says Leung. “We accompany the students on their human formation and especially faith formation. Sometimes as administrators and teacher advisors through their academic programme, other times as moderators or coaches with various sports and clubs.”
“It is important to celebrate this day in recognition of the numerous years and services that various Basilian priests have contributed to St. Michael’s College School.”